Asperger’s Syndrome vs OCD: How to Avoid Misdiagnosis

Asperger’s Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are two disorders that can be easily misdiagnosed due to their similarities. While they share some common symptoms, they are fundamentally different disorders that require different approaches to treatment.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and sensory perception. It is considered to be a mild form of autism, and is often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1. Some common symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome include:

  • Difficulty with social interaction
  • Difficulty with communication
  • Repetitive behaviors or routines
  • Difficulty with sensory perception, such as difficulty with certain textures, sounds or smells.

Children with Asperger’s Syndrome often have difficulty making friends and may struggle to understand social cues. They may also have intense interests in specific topics and may have difficulty with transitions or changes in routine.

What is OCD?

OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. People with OCD often have intrusive and unwanted thoughts or images that are distressing or disturbing. In an effort to reduce anxiety, they engage in compulsive behaviors that may provide temporary relief, but ultimately reinforce the obsessions. Some common symptoms of OCD include:

  • Obsessive thoughts, such as fears of contamination, harm to self or others, or doubts about one’s ability to perform a task properly
  • Compulsive behaviors, such as excessive cleaning, counting, checking, or organizing
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • Feeling anxious or distressed when unable to engage in compulsions.

People with OCD may spend hours a day engaging in compulsions, which can interfere with daily life activities and lead to social isolation and depression.

How to Avoid Misdiagnosis

Asperger’s Syndrome and OCD can sometimes be misdiagnosed due to their overlapping symptoms. It is important for clinicians to differentiate between the two disorders in order to provide appropriate treatment. The following are some strategies that can help avoid misdiagnosis:

1. Conduct a Thorough Evaluation

When evaluating a patient with possible Asperger’s Syndrome or OCD, it is important for clinicians to conduct a comprehensive evaluation that includes a review of the patient’s medical history, developmental history, behavioral observations, and standardized assessments. This can help differentiate between the two disorders and identify any comorbid conditions that may be present.

2. Look for Key Diagnostic Criteria

Asperger’s Syndrome is diagnosed based on specific diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). OCD is also diagnosed based on specific criteria outlined in the DSM. Clinicians should be familiar with these criteria and look for key symptoms that differentiate between the two disorders.

3. Observe the Nature of Obsessions and Compulsions

Obsessions and compulsions in OCD are typically irrational and serve no logical purpose. In contrast, individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome may engage in repetitive behaviors or routines for sensory stimulation or to reduce anxiety. Clinicians can observe the nature of these behaviors to differentiate between the two disorders.

4. Assess Social Communication and Interaction

Asperger’s Syndrome is characterized by difficulty with social communication and interaction. Clinicians can assess the patient’s ability to make eye contact, engage in conversation, and understand social cues to differentiate between the two disorders.

5. Consider the Presence of Other Symptoms

Asperger’s Syndrome and OCD are often comorbid with other mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression. Clinicians should consider the presence of these symptoms when evaluating a patient and look for patterns of symptoms that may be indicative of a specific disorder.

Treatment for Asperger’s Syndrome and OCD

The treatment for Asperger’s Syndrome and OCD differ significantly. Asperger’s Syndrome is often treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, social skills training, and sensory integration therapy. These therapies focus on improving communication, social interaction, and reducing repetitive behaviors.

OCD is typically treated with a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be effective in reducing the symptoms of OCD. Cognitive behavioral therapy is also effective in reducing symptoms by teaching patients new coping strategies and helping them gain a better understanding of their thoughts and behaviors.


While Asperger’s Syndrome and OCD share some common symptoms, they are fundamentally different disorders that require different approaches to treatment. It is important for clinicians to differentiate between the two disorders in order to provide appropriate treatment. Through a comprehensive evaluation and careful observation of key symptoms, clinicians can avoid misdiagnosis and provide effective treatment.


What is Aspergers Syndrome and how is it different from OCD?

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. On the other hand, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a mental illness characterized by repetitive, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. While both conditions may show similar symptoms, they have distinct differences that require proper diagnosis and management.

Why is it important to avoid misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis can lead to inappropriate treatment, which may not only be ineffective but also harmful to the individual. For instance, treating Aspergers as OCD may result in overmedication or behavioral interventions that are not suitable for the person’s condition, which can cause more harm than good. Hence, it is crucial to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to the individual’s specific needs.

How can one avoid misdiagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome vs OCD?

One way to avoid misdiagnosis is to seek professional help from a mental health expert who is knowledgeable in diagnosing and treating both conditions. Diagnostic tools such as standardized assessments, evaluations of symptoms, and medical history can help differentiate Aspergers from OCD. Moreover, it is important to provide a detailed account of the individual’s behaviors, thoughts, and emotions to help with the diagnostic process. Communication and collaboration between mental health professionals, family members, and the individual can also aid in developing an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.


1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. (APA Format 7th, italic, grey, size 8pt)

2. Happe, F., & Frith, U. (2006). The weak coherence account: Detail-focused cognitive style in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 36(1), 5-25. (APA Format 7th, italic, grey, size 8pt)

3. Jacob, S., Landeros-Weisenberger, A., Leckman, J. F., & Fernandez, T. V. (2009). Asperger’s syndrome and OCD: A true diagnostic overlap?. Journal of psychiatric research, 43(8), 785-792. (APA Format 7th, italic, grey, size 8pt)